According to worldpopulation.com, 50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. That means for every wedding you have attended, half will end in divorce. If the couple has a child with a disability, the divorce rate jumps to 80%, and if the child is severely disabled, some figures show the rate as high as 87%. I knew the statistics were not great, but seeing the recent statistics was startling. This past weekend I attended a support group meeting for moms raising disabled children. Many of them expressed marital issues. Miscommunication, disconnect, lack of support, and lack of quality time with their significant other.
As I listened, I could relate. Raising and caring for Emily has impacted our relationship and ability to spend quality time together. Add our own mental and physical challenges, and the struggles increase. It is hard to create connection and intimacy when you are exhausted and not feeling well. You do not have the energy to invest in your spouse or significant other. It takes effort you do not have. The past two years have been full of things outside our control. We have faced surgeries, a pandemic, illness, job changes, and changes in Emily’s schedule and care. Todd and I have not done a great job of prioritizing our relationship. We have been like two ships passing in the night.
I have been forthcoming about the struggles of maintaining our marriage under extraordinary circumstances. We have encountered financial trials, mental and physical health issues, and obstacles raising a child with severe disabilities. We have definitely not handled everything with grace and unity. Often we have been on opposite sides, refusing to work together and set in our own ways. Continuing to stay in the relationship is the hard thing. The work is taxing, and it seems it would be easy to throw in the towel and call it quits. Although, I predict this strategy is not as great as it sounds. I will add another divorce fact. Each subsequent marriage has a higher rate of divorce. The divorce rate for second marriages increases to 60%, and the divorce rate rises to 73% for a third marriage. A new partner isn’t going to fix things. Where you go, your baggage follows.
During times of struggle, it is best when Todd and I work together. Todd and I are an incredible team. But what happens when we are out of sync? What changes take place in our relationship that creates distance rather than connection? How do we fix it and get back on track?
After 37 years together, it is easy to take our relationship and each other for granted. We get busy with jobs, commitments, and caring for our family. We fail to create the time and space to connect with each other. The distance grows slowly. It doesn’t happen overnight. These seasons often feel like I am living with my best friend or a roommate, not the person I have committed to love and cherish for the rest of our lives.
How do you get unstuck? How do you regain the joy, intimacy, and connection you are missing? I do not have the answers, but I know it includes hard work, dedication, sweat, tears, and grit. The first step is recognizing the disconnect. We realized in January that we needed to make an effort to work on our relationship. We both wanted to create ways to prioritize, nurture, and support our relationship. Todd and I committed in January to do something together each month. We would go on a date night or an overnight trip. We did a great job of keeping this commitment until we became overwhelmed. In June, Todd’s parents were having health issues. A week into the madness of caring for Todd’s parents, followed by the Covid takeover of our home, I requested that we start the morning with each other. I asked Todd if we could enjoy a cup of coffee together (without glowing screens) before we hustled off to recover or care for others. This small action has been instrumental in closing the gap of disconnect. Just five to ten minutes at the beginning of the day has impacted our relationship positively. It is so easy to get lost in the day-to-day minutiae. It is easy to forget the things I love about my husband and to fall out of rhythm. Disconnection is easy but reconnecting is just as easy. A simple cup of coffee got us back on the same page and working as a team. Each cup of coffee together, I see characteristics and traits in Todd that made me fall in love with him in the first place.
It takes more than a cup of coffee to maintain and grow our marriage together, but it is a starting point. The closeness I feel after this time creates a desire to spend more time together. This weekend we discussed working on a few projects in the yard. This led to us implementing the projects. We worked together outside for a few hours. We made dinner together. We went to a concert together. We build on the foundation and add other ways to connect. Connection creates a deeper connection. We know we are better as a team than we are alone. We go further and get there faster when we do it together. When we lose sight of that, it only takes a little recognition and course correction to get us back on the road and toward our destination together.